'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

31 January 2013

Ed Rasimus - RIP

I just learned that Ed Rasimus passed away yesterday. The world is a little darker today. A little sadder. A little less wise. Another Warrior we can scarce spare has slipped the surly bonds.

No more razor sharp political take, his ability to pare away the BS and get down to the roots.

So many books unwritten.

So many stories untold.

So many young minds without the opportunity to be schooled by a master.

No more Saturday Morning Rocker. 

I never met Ed in person but I was fortunate that he discovered my little blog and occasionally stopped by with a pithy comment or thoughtful observation. The first in a long line of Warriors who unstintingly gave from his store of wisdom. He readily gave advice to those who were appreciative of his efforts. He never pulled punches but called things exactly as he saw them. Those comments here are now more precious to me than gold. I read his books and even offered my opinion on what he should write about next. He was a good man, one I fear we will never see the likes of again. I've often said that America was just fine as long as we could continue to produce men and women of the Caliber of Ed Rasimus. I pray we still can though I am afraid. 

Ed is undoubtedly ensconced at the bar in Fighter Pilot Heaven, sharing a drink with old comrades and telling stories. He has his Warrior body back, hale and strong, complete to bullet proof mustache. I am gladdened by the thought. But we who remain for a little while are saddened by our loss.

Clear skies and fair winds Ed. You will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

A humble admirer.

30 January 2013

Request For Reevaluation Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bureaucracy

Well kinda. I was perusing the blogs today (you know I read all of you every day right? So write good.) and ran across a good post by DaddyBear. It was a comment there that got me thinking, always a dangerous thing. My hair is still smouldering. What hair I have. It was a very small fire. Go read the post and comments and you'll know which one I'm talking about.

I've written about using the word Fire in a theater before so my views on fatuous arguments is pretty well known. Now the ridiculous equating of licensing drivers and gun owners is being tossed around again. Man, how I wish this idiocy would just go away. Or the idiots. Either way.

First of all there's nothing in the Constitution about driving. It's considered a privilege and not a right. In most every state I know about when you're licensed to drive you also agree to provide a sample of your blood (Ouch), breath (Whew) and/or urine (Icky) when so requested by competent law enforcement authority having probable cause to take you forthwith to the hoosegow for driving while under the influence of intoxicating substances (or having reasonable suspicion to suspect you of the same). It's called Implied Consent and it's a wicked pisser (Yes, I do watch too much TV). You are subject to separate penalties for violation of that in addition to anything that might be levied on the DUI charge. Think cash and roadside trash detail here. Drivers Licenses can be suspended for a wide variety of things ranging from excessive moving violations (slow down you damn kids!) to being uninsured. Go to a DMV hearing sometime. Judicial they ain't. The hearing officer can basically take your license away for most anything they want and there's little or no appeals process. Do try to not piss off the hearing officer. They're grouchy. Do get a lawyer (though in many cases a lawyer isn't allowed. How's that due process working out for ya?) and maybe a payday load cause you're gonna need lots of both kids. All that is because a drivers license isn't considered property. You have no expectation nor property right to it. It's a privilege and the state can basically remove yours about any time they take a hankering to and they usually take a hankering basically anytime the shark is feeling peckish. Which is always. You can even lose your drivers license for being in arrears on your child support payments. Because they can, that's why.

On the other hand guns are a property right and their possession is actually enumerated in the Bill of Rights. Rights versus Privileges. See how that works? Requiring the licensing of gun owners is akin to requiring me to get a religion license before I can possess a Bible. Or a Torah. Or a Qur'an. It's an onerous and undue infringement on my right to keep and bear arms and makes such dependent on bureaucratic governmental approval or denial. Someone wants to create a DMV division of the BATFE. Please excuse me whilst I run screaming from the room at the thought. Will I have to parallel park while simultaneously clearing a malfunction on my Sig, reciting the Four Rules and playing 'Spot The Carjacker' with the proctor? What if I fail because the sun was in my eyes and the radio was tuned to that station that only plays Elton John when I only listen to AC/DC when I'm drivey/shooty and I was really thinking about that outfit Lu was wearing earlier and how much I was looking forward to getting home and convincing her to no longer be wearing it (if you know what I mean and I think you do) and my fingers were felling particularly fat and fumbly that day? Will I then have to appear before a hearing officer in DATFMV (Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Motor Vehicles) office to argue my case? What about lawyers? Does Due Process come into play? What constitutes a fair test and pass/fail scores? Who makes my local up the test? Will it be open book? Will I have to touch it? (Get your minds out of the gutter. I was talking about the gun. Perverts). Are there separate tests for rifle, pistol and shotguns? Are silencers and automatics like big rigs? Will I have to fill out a log book and keep track of rounds fired and how much sleep I've had in the last 24 hours of shooting? Who decides all this stuff?

See, here's the thing. Government does what government does. That is regulate everything under the sun and charge fees for applications, licenses and permissions for anything and everything they can sink their bureaucratic teeth into. Subject to petty tyrants bringing their bad days at home to work with them of course. How humiliating is it to find yourself on your knees begging the angry DMV clerk to please accept your paperwork instead of sending you back to Line 73 which currently stretches out the door and down the block with a wait time measured by calendar because you misspelled penis (Hint: It's the answer to question 137. What are you compensating for?)? Who wants more of that? Oh, right.

On the gripping hand, be careful what you wish for. Let me provide an anecdotal example of why this is such a bad idea. besides the obvious "It's unconstitutional Weasel Boy" one of course. Back in the day, when I wore a blue suit and did cool stuff, I used to do traffic enforcement while riding really cool motorcycles and looking like totally bitchin' and stuff. Yeah, I know. I was as hated as Al Gore at Republican Broadcasters convention. Stay with me here for a minute, I do have a point. And no, it's not the one on top of my head. Though my head is remarkably pointy shaped. But enough of that, back to the story. Among those duties was to evaluate drivers that were suspected of...let's just say of being automotively challenged and leave it at that. There was a form to fill out which included the driver's information, my information and why they were being referred. It was called a Request For Reevaluation and could either be Emergency (Great jumpin' Jehoshaphat Margarete, you need to evaluate this guy like yesterday! I mean it! He's a menace! Hey are you listening? AAIIEE!!) and just regular (Whenever you get a free minute there Skippy). Either way the driver was supposed to be called into DMV and actually, you know, have their ability to successfully pilot a four thousand pound motor vehicle on America's highways and byways reevaluated. Hey, it's right there in the form and everything! In 24 years I wrote hundreds of them. Hundreds I tell you. It's surprising how many folks out there have issues driving a car. I mean bouncing off parked cars while careening out of control down the street and nearly running down pedestrians who were minding their own business in their back yards kind of issues with driving. Or maybe not so surprising. I mean, you've been out there. Would you trust those people with your life? I thought not. Anyway. In all those years not a one ever had their license revoked. I never even got called in to DMV for a revocation hearing. I've seen a 93 year old driver hit 14 parked cars and three trees on her way downtown to the Farmer's Market and who had not a single clue anything untoward had occurred. Kept her license. Hell, that was 15 years ago and as far as I know she still has it (and a high deductible insurance policy I'm sure). I had a UPS driver pass out behind the wheel of his Big Brown Truck for reasons unknown and run off the road leaving a path of total destruction in his wake. Yep, kept his license. There were more, oh so depressingly many more. Like the gal who failed to see it and ended up in the middle of Lake El Estero. Had no idea the lake was there in spite of living in that city her whole life. Or the guy who decided the Rec Trail was just a really narrow street and what the hell are all these pedestrians and bicyclists doing in the middle of the damn road!? I've seen trees run right out into the street and then magically teleport themselves, with the car still wrapped around the trunk, right back into the grove. No idea how that happened officer. I swear. Parked cars that suddenly appeared right in front of motorists. Pedestrians who unexpectedly dropped their cloaks on invisibility just as the driver was passing on the sidewalk. The guy...well, you get the idea. None of them ever lost their driving privilege. Nary a one. If you believe my coworkers (and why wouldn't you. They're a great bunch of folks. Why the hate? Oh yeah. That whole ticket thing. Right. My bad.) none of them ever saw a driver suspended either. We may have been wrong on occasion but not every time. My point? Oh right, I was building up to something wasn't I? It's just this. Bureaucracies tend to be capricious and make frustratingly random decisions. There's no rhyme and little reason. Decisions seem to be made by way of Magic 8 Balls, fortune cookies, Ouija Boards and Lunar cycles (Full Moon Madness FTW!!). Anyone on the gun control side who thinks those people can be depended on needs to quit smoking crabgrass. That stuff will rot your brain.

I got just the answer. How about No? That's simple and easily understood, even for those who are logic challenged. I like that word. I may even love it. Short and to the point. No. N. O. Don't be shy, say it with me. No. It just rolls off the tongue. It's satisfying with no aftertaste and none of that next day "Oh Lord, who is this and what have I done?" regret. Those who insist on Conversation, Compromise and Common Sense (The three C's of gun control) should get very used to the idea of hearing it frequently and sometimes vehemently. I am not putting my civil rights, any of them, into the hands of people who think spinning the Big Wheel 'O Hilarious Outcomes is an acceptable method of decision making.

Can I get an Amen from the back row? Thank you brothers and sisters.


28 January 2013

We Are The Police And The Police Is Us

With Angus healing and time on my hands whilst I tend to him I need to get back into the fight. I've been mulling this one over for a few days now.

The current gun control, armed teachers and guards in schools, etc. argument misses an important point. Who are the police and what is their primary function?

It is commonly accepted within police circles that Sir Robert Peel is the father of modern policing. He incorporated the principals by which all western police organizations adhere (or at least pay lip service to). Here are the Nine Principals Of Policing as laid out by Peel (emphasis mine):
  1. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.

  2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.

  3. Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

  4. The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

  5. Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

  6. Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.

  7. Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence

  8. Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

  9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.
Let's set aside the basic mission of the police for a moment and concentrate on who is ultimately responsible for the safety of persons and property here in America. If you read those Nine principals what I hope strikes you is the idea that our very concept of law enforcement and self defense, aside from residing in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, rests largely on these ideas, primarily number 7 that I have highlighted. Let's read that again.

The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence. 

I always get such a warm feeling when I read those words. It's a very large concept for such an innocuous sentence. What Peel was saying is that every citizen is responsible for the enforcement of our laws. Ok. Let's go back to those principals and see what they say about duties and mission.

If we are the police and the police is us then it stands to reason that we are not only responsible for doing our duty to the whole, that is the nation state, by defending it and those weaker citizens who can't defend themselves but also to defend ourselves. It's not just a right, it's the duty of every citizen.

Let's go a step further. In addition to "We are the police and the police is us" I'd add "We are the military and the military is us". We have a Citizen Military including Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard). Throw in that Citizen Militia the Second Amendment talks about and we see that the tools of democracy are supposed to be right where the founders wanted them and the Constitution envisioned them. In the capable grip of the citizenry. We're talking about Weapons here, not the right to protest or speak or even to vote for the representative of our choice. The means of defense of country and self reside where they always have. In the hands of The People. By statutory and customary authority.

Back to the mission of the police and even the military. What are they supposed to do really? They are supposed to prevent crime and disorder in the case of the police and to defend the nation and our vital interests abroad in the case of the military. Note there's no mention of defense of the individual. It's accepted that defense of the whole does in fact render defense to the individual from widespread harm whether from internal or external forces but that's macro. What of the micro? On the individual scale both the founders and those who have shaped our society envisioned that the individual citizen was responsible for their own safety and that of their immediate family and community. Read through Posse Comitatus (Common Law). Here's the money quote;
Posse comitatus is the common law or statute law authority of a County Sheriff or other law officer to conscript any able-bodied man to assist him in keeping the peace or to pursue and arrest a felon, similar to the concept of the Hue and Cry". Originally found in English common law, it is generally obsolete; however, it survives in the United States, where it is the law enforcement equivalent of summoning the militia for military purposes.

Nothing extraordinary in any of that of you're an American. The concept of a Posse and assisting a police officer is ingrained in our collective psyches. I've used it myself in my police career without hesitation. Again "We are the Police and the police is us". Talk to Sheriff David Clarke if you think that idea is dead. That's a man I both understand and would work for in a hot second.

The courts, including the Supreme Court, have recognized that the police have no duty to protect the individual. Go back to the police mission as outlined by Peel. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder. The conclusion is both inescapable and obvious. We are individually responsible for our own safety.

What then of guns, the tools of personal protection. If we are indeed the police and the military it stands to reason that the tools available to them are the very tools that must be available to us. We cannot separate the citizen from the cop or soldier because we are them and they are us.

Yet we hear a constant drumbeat of "Only the police and military should have X guns and Y accessories". Ok fine. I'll stipulate that for the sake of argument. All that does is strengthen the Second Amendment argument against Infringement because, as I believe I've written once or twice here, We Are Them. We are the Police and We are the military. We. Us. American Citizens. The sure and certain road to tyranny and a true police state is abrogating this concept and that is precisely what the left is currently trying to do. Make the police and military separate entities from the general citizenry. Us versus Them. Here's proof. In virtually every piece of gun control legislation put forth post 1968 there's a provision exempting active and/or retired law enforcement. It's just another trick to try and divide one group of citizens from another. 

If the modern tools of the police and military are withheld from the People and given only to the select then we have created a system of three classes; Armed, Unarmed and the Elite upon whom no law is enforceable. That's a path to servitude for the majority. Even omitting hot button words like slavery, tyranny, socialism and the like we're still left with one inescapable conclusion. If the People are no longer the police and the military and they are no longer us then loss of essential liberties to those who can wield such force will follow like night after day. Pretending otherwise is either lying or Three Monkeying.

Finally I'd like to remind the "We must do something now" crowd of the last of Sir Robert Peels Principals. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it. If that is the standard we hold our police to, and I fervently hope it still is, then I submit that end result we are looking for is the absence (or at least diminution) of crime and acts of violence against the whole of society and not to simply do something, even if it's wrong, in the vain hope we'll hit the right target. Yes, the individual is largely left to his or her own devices but as long as they have the lawful right to defend themselves and the needed tools then we as a free and democratic society have done all that we can. All that we should. Good policing is quiet policing.

It's been proven time and again that gun bans neither reduce nor eliminate criminality but placing the means and trust for defense in the hands of the citizenry does. The current gun ban call put forth by Dianne Feinstein is a case in point. The rules of logic and intent still apply. If the fix doesn't actually work and demonstrably won't be widely obeyed there must be another reason it's being put forth. Incompetence or malicious intent. It's either disingenuous or it's nefarious. Criminals by definition do not obey the law. Legislation like this serves only to further sever the already tenuous link between the free citizenry and those who see the Constitution as a nuisance. Between those actively advocating for a police state and those opposed. Between Liberty and Tyranny. It really is just that simple. If the politicians on the left and their enablers really wanted a solution to crime and violence they'd loudly remind us of our duties as citizens and then step back and let us get on with it. Really, we've already gone past the point where the politicians are us and we are them else we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

We are the police and the police is us. Such a simple and beautiful concept. That's what this whole argument really boils down to in my view. Either we are the arbiters of our own fates or we are not. Are we individually sovereign or are we not? That's the only real question that needs to be asked and answered. The rest is a smokescreen, a way to get the camel's nose under the tent and that is the imminent danger. Because sure as hell, once he gets that first taste there's nothing on earth that will get him back out again short of force. I'm still hoping we can avoid that. I really, really am.

I love Peel's Nine Principals. I used to read them constantly at work to remind me of what my job was all about. The connection between me and those I served. Between the cop on the beat and the Minute Man at home. The concept and willingness isn't dead it's just been forgotten by those who damn well should know better. Don't ever forget my friends, we are all Citizen with all those rights and duties incumbent on us. Don't give an inch. Find your inner cop, your inner soldier, your warrior spirit, and defend!


26 January 2013

Sunday Kipling And A Special Thank You

Lu and I wanted to send each of you a special thank you for your prayers, well wishes, thoughts and general positive energy. We can't thank you enough but we will try. It's below the poem.

But first a poem. Was there any doubt which it would be today?

The Power Of The Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie --
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find -- it's your own affair --
But . . . you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit hat answered your every mood
Is gone -- wherever it goes -- for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept'em, the more do we grieve;

For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long --
So why in -- Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear? 
The power of a dog is rivaled only by the power of prayer. 
Know that yours worked beyond our hopes. Angus is 
recovering so well and seems to have put the pain of his 
injury and loneliness of his hospital stay behind him in a
way we could scarcely hope for. We will forever be in your 
debt. This is for each and every one of you. It's a small 
enough gesture but please know that it is heartfelt and 
given with love and gratitude. The pictures are yours to 
do with as you please. Click to enlarge.


Our thank you gift to you, small as it is. Friends 
are more precious than gold and jewels. We are richer 
today by far than we have ever been before. If I 
missed anyone please accept my apology with the 
explanation that my tears of joy may have blinded me 
just a little. 

Our prayer for each of you is that your kindness be 
returned to you a thousand fold. We will never forget.

Six, Lu, and Angus 


Amidst our personal battles it's easy to lose sight of what is most important in our lives. Family. Friends. Those we love with all our hearts and souls. Last night, after a long battle, Rick lost his lovely bride of 32 years to the scourge of Cancer.

Words are insufficient. My heart aches and my thoughts go out to Rick and his family. May God grant him mercy and the comfort he so badly needs right now.

Rick, you will never be far from our thoughts and ever in our prayers. Lu and I grieve with you.


25 January 2013

Canine Broken Leg Care Part I

Back a few years ago, when Trooper was diagnosed with Diabetes, I blogged about our daily routine and the things we did to care for him. My hope was that someone in similar circumstances might see it and come away with both some hope and ideas on how to cope and care for the dog. I'm going to do a little of the same now with Angus. I'm going to title each such post Canine Broken Leg Care (Part I, II, etc.). Maybe what we do isn't going to be unique or even interesting but Angus isn't the first, last or only dog to be so afflicted and maybe someone will find something in these posts they can use. I invite anyone who has firsthand knowledge or experience to leave tips and ideas in comments. If you have something you'd like to go on the blog please drop me an e-mail and I'll incorporate it into a post.

One of the first things we did was to try and anticipate issues. Pain management, feeding, cast care and safety were our first priorities.

We have a section of floor that is a pretty slick vinyl type flooring. With Angus having a cast (It's actually a covered splint but cast is easier to visualize and for all intents and purposes that's what it is) that goes from shoulder to toes so slip and trip hazards had to be addressed. We got some heavy throw rugs and taped them both together and to the floor. We used duct tape because, well, there's nothing it can't do. We trimmed the rugs around the spaces to fit. This should address both trip and slip problems. We also went around the house and picked up anything off the floor we thought would cause an issue. It's a lot like child proofing. Toys and rawhides go in the toy box and stay there until needed.

Angus sleeps with us. He's also jumpy and I mean that in two senses of the word. He reacts to sudden noises by jumping to his feet and if he's on anything, like the bed, by jumping down and running to investigate. One of the things that the Doc said that stuck with me is that Angus has no idea the extent of his injury or what he shouldn't do. That's up to us to address. I had visions of him taking a header off the bed in the middle of the night while Lu and I were sleeping and knew we had to do something. It's 2 1/2 feet from the bed to the floor. Yeah, that's potentially bad. So we took off the bed frame and box springs and put the mattress on the floor. Angus has shown signs that if reacted to quickly enough he will wait to be lifted down. I think part of that is that we've insisted he not jump down from anything since he was a puppy. He still does it from time to time but generally he's pretty obedient. But changing the potential from almost three feet to 10 inches lessens the possibility of another tragedy significantly. We added a foam doggy mattress at the foot for additional insurance. Plus Lu is already a light sleeper so throw in her natural Momma Sense with heightened awareness and we both sleep better. This will be our sleep area for the next few months (though I have since moved the box springs into storage).

The Doc wanted us to put a plastic bag on the cast when we went outside but I was again concerned about the potential for a slip. I came up with something else. I cut the foot out of a couple of my socks. they slip over the cast easily but hold very securely and provide nice protection and a little warmth. The cast is open at the very tip so we can check his toes for circulation.

Unfortunately it started raining the night we brought him home so I came up with an alternative to the plastic bag idea. I put a baggie on his cast

And then slipped a sock on over it. Genius right?

Yeah, it didn't work. The sock slipped around too much and eventually came off. The baggy/sock combination was too slick. I still think this can work with a little ingenuity but lacking that I went the redneck solution route instead. I turned a sock inside out, put my fist inside it and duct taped the end. I then turned it back right side out, worked out any creases and slipped it on. It works surprisingly well and goes on and off easily while still being secure. We're not going swimming so I don't need absolute waterproofing I just need it to be water resistant and this design accomplishes that well. The sock got wet but the cast stayed dry. I then change him back to a regular dry sock when we come inside. If the rain keeps up I'll go back and work out the bugs in my baggie design but this is an entirely acceptable alternative. Hey, I have plenty of socks and lots of duct tape.

His cast also makes it difficult for Angus to reach the floor with his mouth while standing. He'll eat treats and lick plates while laying down but not food or water. I was going to build a simple raised tray to hold his food and water bowls but Lu had a better idea. We bought a canine travel bag many years ago. It's a plastic and vinyl box that holds food and treats in the base but has a tray at the top with two bowls. It stands about a foot off the floor, the perfect height.

Angus can now easily reach his food and water without straining himself. Many of you out there with skills could do much better and I am wide open to suggestions but for now this will do nicely.

As for food it's important that Angus keep up his intake while not eating so much as to add on excess pounds. That's going to be a real issue I can already tell. We started him on rice with a little chicken flavoring but that can't last. We're transitioning him to his normal food though we're monitoring his portions and treats very closely. His weight is good at the moment but we're going to be obsessive about it really for the rest of his life. He can't get chunky (and he tends toward that anyway), especially right now.

Medication is also critical. It's important to keep Angus on an even keel. Too much and he gets sick and lethargic. Too little and he's in pain and can't eat or sleep. YoYoing may be the worst of all. Going from too much to too little and back over and over again causes too much stress on his body. Keeping him on a strict medication schedule and monitoring him for changes and signs is very important. We give him one Tramadol at 10AM, 2PM and 10PM. We give him one Rimadyl at 10AM and 10PM. Right now that seems to be ideal but we're watching him closely. Doc also wants us to give him 50 mg of Benadryl occasionally to keep him calm and relaxed. Apparently it has the same effects on dogs that it does on humans. I saw what a rigorously regular medication schedule did for Trooper so I tend to be obsessive about it.

Normalcy. This is a tough one. We've gone back to his old schedule and routine as much as possible but there are changes and we're all going to have to adapt. Still, incorporating as much of his old routine as possible seems to help his mental state. For instance. The Doc says we can give him 5 minutes of walking 2-3 times per day. Light and easy walking. On leash, no running or jumping and yes that is a fight with Angus. As far as he's concerned just cut the cast off and let's go! Still, there was something we could do. He used to go walkies every night at 6:30 PM. Regular as clockwork. When done he got a nice chewie treat and it was time to settle in for the night. Bed usually followed shortly thereafter. We are continuing that routine to the extent possible. At 6:30 we get ready, grab coats and a leash and head out. Angus gets excited and it feels just like it always did to him. We walk around the yard and maybe to the next door neighbor's driveway. 5 minutes and it's back inside for his chewie treat and settling in. It doesn't seem to matter how long or far we go just that we go. He and Lu head for the bed about 8:00 or so. Lu reads and Angus cuddles. It's normal and usual for him. It feels right. Medicine and a pee break at 10:00 and we're done for the night. Even now, so soon after the surgery, Angus shows every sign of settling into a comfortable routine and that is a large step toward normalizing his life which reduces his stress levels and makes controlling his Run and Play urges easier.

That's where we are right now. I'll post regularly on his progress and any issues and solutions we come up with. If you're reading this because you're looking for information to help your own pet out and stumbled in I hope you find what I've written useful. Please check comments and send me a message if you have any questions. Again, please comment or e-mail if you have any suggestions, tips or knowledge to share. 

For my regular readers and those of you who have so graciously left us prayers, suggestions, kindness and words of wisdom please check back here on Sunday for a special Thank You from Angus, Lu and me. It'll be little enough but it will be a heartfelt expression of our love and gratitude.


23 January 2013

He's Home!!!

Got down to Vegas about noon. Had to wait around for about an hour while they finished him up on his IV. Because of the vomiting they wanted to make sure he was as hydrated as possible. When they finally brought him in it near broke my heart. He was soooo glad to see Lu and me. He pulled the little nurse into the room on three legs so he could greet us with all the happy doggie joy you could imagine.

After we got the scoop on care, follow up and rehab it was time to go home. I grabbed his leash and as soon as he figured out what was going on he put it in three wheel drive and dragged my 240 pound body out the door. Angus wanted to GO HOME and he wanted to go home right now! When he saw the truck, his truck, he wagged his tail and headed for the door. Lu got in and I passed him to her and we were off.

He spit up a little twice, once in the truck and again just after we got home but it was negligible. I think we (and most of you) were right. Part of what was going on with Angus was recovering from the drugs but a large part was emotional. Angus was scared, lonely, in pain and most likely wondering if he'd ever see Mom and Dad again.

As soon as we hit the road he snuggled in with Lu. He slept part of the way but mostly he just snuggled with Momma. The happiness and relief were palpable. We tried a few small bites, remember he hasn't eaten anything substantive since Sunday morning. This is Wednesday. He kept it down and seemed comfortable. His pain is no where near what it was on Sunday and Monday. It's obvious the surgery was successful in the regard at the very least.

By the time we gt to the outskirts he was up and interested. he could smell Home. We arrived and I gingerly got him down. he headed straight for the front yard. He stood for a bit, just soaking in the joy of being home, and finally took the longest pee in the history of dogkind.

He hobbles but actually gets around fairly well. The cast doesn't seem to be an excessive burden though I can tell he's ready for it to go away. Six weeks. He hops on three legs and occasionally tests the repaired leg. He doesn't yelp or act as if it's really painful so I anticipate the real problem is going to be when he figures this is the way things are and starts trying to run and play. He's already tried to convince me to throw something he can fetch so....

Here's Angus just after we got home. He went immediately to the food and water dish. We let him drink all he wanted but we're limiting his food intake for a day or two.

What's a homecoming without a present? When Baby Girl broke her arm I got her a new Bear so Angus got one too. The black Gorilla is a much beloved toy but the White Bear is his newest. In spite of everything he has gone through he still just wants to play.

I have been wondering if his spirit would suffer from the ordeal. I needn't have worried. As soon as I sat in my chair he hobbled over at top speed to assume his accustomed place between Daddy's feet.

But here's the clincher. We let Angus sleep with us. As soon as he went into the bedroom and saw the bed he asked to get up. I hoisted him on and he settled in with a deep sigh of happiness. Lu laid down with him and he fell into a contented sleep within seconds. Cuddled up with Momma in his very own bed. Trust me on this, that is one happy dog.

We have many trials ahead of us and the final outcome is still uncertain. We all expect a complete recovery but this isn't a movie and nothing is guaranteed. We will do our part. We have a list of things to do and forbid, a plan for life and the motivation to do all we possibly can to give him the best chance. Angus is now the number one priority in our lives and he will get the best care we can give him. This is something we can and will do.

I feel a little better today. It's funny, when we lost Trooper I didn't think another dog would ever capture my heart. I know better now. Our lives were empty without Angus and now that he's home I am relieved and much more at peace. He's brought the joy back into our lives. As I type this he came out of the bedroom, headed for the front door (after being intercepted by Lu at the doggy door). I had to hold him back from running outside when I opened the door. We walked to the yard with me, took another epic pee, growled at the teenagers across the street and looked ready for anything. Right now he's on the living room floor playing New Bear with Lu. Our lives are complete again.

In the next few days we'll settle into a routine. I have a special thank you planned for all of you wonderful and precious supporters. More in a couple of days. For now, I'm going to follow the advice of a god friend,  put up the computer and get down on the floor to play with my best friend. I thank God We still have him. For the first time since that awful day I think we're going to be Ok.

Later my friends.

Six, Lu and Angus

Bringing Him Home Today

Doc called at 9:30. Angus did Ok but started throwing up shortly after he awakened from the anesthesia and was started on Fentanyl. I think his body doesn't react well to Opioids. This is twice now and both times he had bad reactions. He did much better on Rimadyl and Tramadol. Doc's pretty sure it was a drug reaction but suggested they keep him another day. Lu stood beside me shaking her head and Momma Bear growling (if the Doc had seen her he'd have run from the room screaming "Just Kidding!") and I had to agree with her. No insult to them but we can take better care of him at home and he'll naturally do better when he's relaxed and happy in his environment and with Mom and Dad. He'll be more comfortable and secure not to mention he loves being fussed over. Angus is a sensitive dog. He needs to be touched and cooed at and generally babied. No one babies him like Momma and Momma wants her boy home so home he is coming. We are so happy this morning.

So we'll be heading down to pick him up in a few minutes. They'll have him ready at 1:00. We've spent the morning getting everything ready. Carpets and rugs taped down over slick floors. Bedding and linens ready. We've packed up his sling, some toys (a new stuffed bear!), some food and treats in the truck. The medicine cabinet is stocked and we know what comes and what to do next. We're as ready as we can be.

I probably won't post anything else today barring something unforeseen but I promise a good update tomorrow after a nights sleep in his own bed in his own home and some good food. Thank you again for all your prayers and well wishes. They worked, they really did. We're getting our little man back today. My spirit soars.

Six and Lu

22 January 2013

Angus Surgery Update

Got a call from the hospital at 0912 this morning. Angus apparently did well overnight though his appetite was off. They said he didn't eat anything prior to the midnight cutoff. For Angus that's a pretty good indication he was stressed and missing us because that boy is a lunch gut. I mean he is a Lab. Surgery is scheduled for mid morning and they promised the Doc would call with an update after it's done. Lu and I did get some sleep last night. Considering how little we've slept over the past two days I guess that's not really surprising. We'll try and stay busy today to keep our minds off what Angus is enduring.

I haven't responded to all your well wishes, kind words, suggestions and prayers but Lu and I have read them all. Words are insufficient to express how much we appreciate them and all of you. From the bottom of our hearts Thank You. Lu and I will always consider each of you as friends. Angus now has so many Godparents. It's a blessing and both Lu and I understand that and are grateful. May your love and kindness be returned to each of you a thousand fold.

I'm going to use this post to update his progress as the day goes on. When we hear anything I'll post it here.

Thank you.


Update: 1:45 (12:45 Pacific). Angus is in surgery now.

Update: 2:55. Doc called. Good news/bad news. Angus is out of surgery. It went well and he's recovering. The bad news is the break was even worse than we thought. The Radius was split lengthwise as well as being broken across. That explains why Angus was in so much pain. The Doc had to open him up more than he had hoped so he could screw the split bone together as well as plating the break. The split didn't reach either joint and Doc doesn't think it'll make any real difference in his recovery except rehab and final healing may take a little longer than first thought. Doc was upbeat and we're happy Angus is out of surgery alive and recovering. Doc will monitor him today and tonight but wants to wait until tomorrow morning before deciding whether or not to send him home tomorrow. He's promised to visit Angus first thing and call us at 9:00 in the morning to let us know. We're anxious to bring our little man home but if it takes another day then it takes another day. Better to be sure than to take any risks with Angus' health. But at least the most stressful and dangerous part is behind us. Now we know. I can't begin to say how badly we're missing him.

21 January 2013

Angus Update And A Prayer Request

First thanks to all of you wonderful people who have left us so many kind thoughts and prayers. And Brigid? We love you. Thank you. We needed it. Seriously. Lu and I were both standing right there when it happened and that sight and the sound of his crying will be with both of us until the day we die. I'm not going to go into it any further than that because I really hope someday I'll be able to put it out of my mind. The x-rays are frankly obscene.

As the DO said, Angus broke both bones in his right front leg. Pretty badly though not as bad as some the doctor had seen. Both were displaced fractures, the ulna was broken in two places. Got him into the emergency clinic within about 20 minutes of the accident. They took x-rays, splinted the leg, told us to see our vet today and sent us home.

Angus had a pretty rough night. He was in a lot of pain and the Fentanyl patch wasn't cutting it. Put this down to lessons learned because we later found out the patch was put on with small skin clips that, unknown to us at the time, were causing Angus irritation and adding to his misery. Throw in the whole body shivering and extremely fast heart rate, respiration and heavy panting and it was pretty clear something needed to be done. About 2300 the Mama Grizzly came out in Lu when it was obvious the Fentanyl wasn't giving Angus any relief. She called the emergency Doc, informed him she wasn't about to load Angus back up for another hour round trip for a shot. She wanted some oral pain meds, she wanted them "right fucking now" and they had damn well better be sitting on the counter ready for her by the time she got there. Luckily (for them) they complied and the new meds seemed to help though he tended to suddenly wake up crying all night long. Nobody got much rest.

We got into see out Vet this morning at 0830. By about 0900 we were loaded up and headed for Las Vegas. We had an appointment to see the surgeon at the Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center. We talked to a very nice and extremely experienced surgeon. Our Vet recommended him and made the appointment. He explained what we were looking at and what the options were. Essentially he will screw a plate to the Radius as it's the main bone. He'll set the much smaller Ulna but said it doesn't need to be plated. What he said was that the Ulna would do what the Radius did and if one healed they both would and that the Ulna wasn't really needed for complete function and strength. He's confident of a total recovery even for a Field Trial Lab. Angus will be in a splint for 4 to 6 weeks with a specific rehab regimen that we will follow to the letter.

We had to leave Angus there today and that was one of the hardest things Lu and I have ever done. He's never ever been away from both of us, he's in pain, trapped in a cage and can't walk or play. He has to be wondering just exactly what has happened to his whole world. My heart is breaking. I can't bear the thought. He'll be there tonight so they can monitor his pain meds and food/water intake. He'll have the surgery tomorrow, hopefully in the morning. They'll keep him overnight again to monitor him and we can pick him up Wednesday morning. They promised to call us with regular updates. We'll see. If they don't call us we will be calling them. Frequently.

Two days without him. The house has never seemed so big and empty.

The good news is the Doc says there's no reason Angus won't make a complete recovery. Since we chose this surgery as opposed to setting and casting he's confident the leg will heal and be as strong as it ever was. In fact, since the plate is permanent (absent medical issues) it should actually be stronger that the other leg. The breaks were between the wrist and elbow and neither joint was involved. As far as the Doc can tell he shouldn't develop problems like arthritis in those joints as a result of this injury.

For those of you so inclined and who don't think prayers for a dog are sacrilegious I'd like to ask a favor. Some time tomorrow if you could just say a short prayer for Angus Lu and I would be forever in your debt. He's still just a puppy, hurt and all alone and no matter how often such is done, surgery is never a sure thing. That was really driven home when they made me choose a resuscitation option should the unthinkable happen on the operating table. I know he may just be a dog to some but he's our baby. In the past 2 years we've lost Trooper, Chrisi and my mother. We can't stand even the thought of losing Angus.

I'll post an update tomorrow as soon as I hear back from the hospital. Thank you all my friends.


20 January 2013

No Kipling today.

Hey all.  Apparently this Sunday started out beautiful and called for a hike; it ended, however, with doggie x-rays and a broken leg.  Angus did what all life loving, slightly crazy, joyful pups do, he took his adventuring one step too far.  Going up the boulders, it seems, was great fun, but the coming down after a nervous Dad called him back led to a misstep and a plant of the right foreleg between the boulders instead of on top.  As Angus is wont to do, he was traveling at Hell-Bent-For-Leather pace, and once the leg stopped, and the body kept going, the only place to give was the bones.  He broke both the ulna and radius in the right leg, and one of them in two places.  Of course this means surgery as the Doc will have to put a pin in the double broken bone to stabilize the piece that is currently floating. They will go in tomorrow to see if the surgery can be done locally, or if they will have to head down to Vegas.

Dad is understandable distraught.  At this point I don't know when he will be blogging again, most of his time will be with Angus.  I will try to post as I get updates.

~The DO

19 January 2013

The Kitchen Dispatch And Kanani Fong

One of my favorites, Kanani Fong, has a final post up on her blog, The Kitchen Dispatch.

Kanani really helped me when I was first starting out blogging. My Blog Mom if you will. She read and commented and encouraged all while she had her own projects and a husband in harms way. She gave me my first link ever. I'm indebted to her but it's more than just that. She's smart, kind, loving and one heck of a writer. She's selfless and never had an unkind word for anyone save maybe only those who preyed on her beloved soldiers and veterans. Then she was as protective as a mother rottweiler. As a veteran I always knew Kanani had my back. She delved deep to root causes and was fearless in pursuit of truth and solutions. Kanani is a Warrior of the first stripe and I'd ride into battle with her any time.

Her voice on The Kitchen Dispatch will be missed.

She will undoubtedly appear here and there (and will ever have a home here if she ever wants to just post something) and has a life to live and other projects to occupy her time. But I will miss her. I've had her link on my blogroll from the beginning and it always made me smile to see her updates and read her latest. Kanani has been one of those friends. The ones you expect you'll never meet in person (though I'd love to) but who you treasure no less because of it. Yes, Kanani is my friend and always will be.

Kanani, you will always have a special place in my heart. You and your valiant husband will be welcome in my home forever. Thank you for all you did and do. I will ever be a Kanani Fong fan.


18 January 2013

Kids Room - Down To Bare Walls And Structural Issues

I probably should have said this in the first post but I am neither a structural engineer nor a framing contractor. I'm just a Do It Yourselfer who has a basic understanding of construction requirements and techniques. Approach anything I say and do from that perspective and with a large grain of salt. If you're unsure at all on your own project please consult with an expert. Anyone who is an expert is welcome to correct me anytime and I will not only thank you publicly I'll post a correction here.

Ok, time to remove the remaining drywall and get to bare stud walls. It's easy. If you don't have an edge to work with just punch a hole

Grab an edge and start pulling

Before you know it you'll be down to framing and insulation. And piles of broken drywall of course.

Be careful here. You'll end up with a lot of protruding nails. Watch what you're doing and take the time to regularly remove them. You're going to have to do that anyway and it's best done before clothing and skin get inadvertently ripped. Stopping for blood and band aids just make the job go that much slower.

Ok, we're down to bare stud walls. I'm leaving some of the insulation in place, mostly where I am either going to be leaving the wall alone or where I'm unsure.

It's taken a week, mostly because I've been fighting off the crud, but I'm finally at the place where I can see the issues and can plan accordingly. First up the attic space.

A couple of terms and definitions (though the exact names might differ depending on who you talk to and where you live). This is a ceiling joist. These are a structural (or are supposed to be anyway) part of the rafter/roof truss system. They also define the ceiling, where the drywall will later be screwed on.

This is a roof joist/truss. They are nailed to the crown truss which defines the peak of the roof and the roof sheathing. They support the main weight of the roof. Can you spot the issue?

If you look at this picture closely you will see that there are no vertical supports running from the ceiling joists up to the roof joists. They should be integral to any truss/rafter system but they're simply not present. Vertical supports from properly installed ceiling joists to properly installed roof joists help support the weight of the roof.

Second issue and something I have mentioned before. The ceiling joists are butt joined and toe nailed into the headers.

Here's why this is such a big problem. Take a look at this roof joist. First, the roof joist was severely notched where it goes over the ceiling joist. That is a no no. Any structural element is only as strong as it's weakest point. It's no longer a 2x4 here, it's more like a 2x1 where it goes over the ceiling joist and under the weight of the roof it failed and broke. Don't notch structural members. Ever. Period.

Throw in the toe nailed, butt joined ceiling joists. The joist is supported only by the nails which creates small, nail sized failure points. Under load they are also prone to split and fail as this one did.

Here's a broader view The two joists that failed are connected to each other creating a single point of failure for the entire roof. At the top right of the door is the broken roof joist and just to the right of that is the split ceiling joist. (enlarge the picture for a better look). The split ceiling joist connects to the header and the roof joist goes over the failed ceiling joist. Also note the already failed once ceiling joist has been further weakened by another notch just to the left there, just above the door. Frankly I am very fortunate this entire section of roof didn't collapse at some point.

A look at the rest of the ceiling/roof structure reveals a lack of sufficient vertical bracing and what is there consists of scrap 1 inch boards. No dimensional structural lumber. It's....indescribably awful.

What's the fix? I'll be detailing how I'm going to be tackling these issues in the next post. Basically I will replace all the ceiling joists with 2x6 dimensional lumber put in with joist hangers. I will add in 2x6 and 2x4 vertical supports from the new ceiling joists to the existing roof joists. That will allow me to take up some of the stresses of the roof with the new structure and strengthen the whole thing by properly installing the ceiling joists, supporting the roof joists and tying the whole thing together. Absent removing the entire roof and starting all over from scratch with engineered rafters this is the only way to go.

I picked up my first load of lumber today. 2x6s and 2x4s with screws, joist hangers and truss fasteners. Total cost was 404 dollars but 80 dollars of that was the purchase of a new tool so I'm taking that off the total. Hey new tools are Capital expenses. It's what is commonly referred to as a Hilti Gun though mine isn't made by Hilti. It's a tool designed to fire 3 inch nails into concrete and brick by way of a .22 blank. Yeah, I've integrated shooting into the remodel. Hey, I am a gunnie!

324 bucks in and I haven't yet driven a single nail or screw. Still, I'd be into this a couple of thousand already if I'd hired this out. I'll be working all weekend. Updates next week.


17 January 2013

Hitchcock's Holocaust Movie

Robert J. Avrech has a blog named Seraphic Secret. On his header Robert writes this about himself:

Robert J. Avrech: Emmy Award winning screenwriter. Religious Zionist. Republican. Movie fanatic. Gun owner. Helplessly and hopelessly in love with my wife since age nine.

I love that. I only discovered him recently (One of you folks pointed me to him but I can't remember who it was. Please forgive me. I'm getting to that age) and linked to him on my blogroll. He's a brilliant writer, powerful and heartfelt. He also understands why America and Americans need to be armed. He's a supporter of Israel and insofar as I can discern a very good man. If you haven't yet visited his site and read his prose I highly encourage you to do so. You will not be disappointed.

Which leads me to this, his latest post. It's about the Holocaust movie by Alfred Hitchcock. I didn't know he ever made such a movie and I'm guessing many of you didn't either. It's just what you would expect from a film maker of Hitchcock's brilliance. Robert describes it as "...graphic and deeply disturbing. As was intended and as it should be." I can add little to Robert's narrative and I won't embed the movie here. Go visit the link provided and watch it, though I warn you. It is indeed graphic and deeply disturbing but it's worth every second of it's 53 minute run time. Stark and heartrending.

It's also a reminder to all of us who love America and liberty that our freedoms are ever only a hairs breadth from being lost because anyone who thinks the Nazi's were aberrations is simply wrong. We don't love our guns for the sense of power over others the left imagines they engender. We love them because they allow us to intimidate, and at times destroy, the very tyrants the evil side of human nature continues to produce. The current gun control argument isn't about evil rifles or evil magazines it's about evil men and the tyranny they will construct if given the opportunity. Only the true Warrior, girded with his courage and armed with his sword and shield has ever dared face the monster in his lair. Oh Lord in Heaven, I pray we remain a nation of the daring.

Watch the movie and contemplate the words Never Again.

Thank you Robert for the reminder.


16 January 2013

Live Blogging the Presidential Speech On Gun Control

Live blogging the speech this morning. I'm watching the presser right now. First up the Sheriff of Vice.

Dancing in the blood of innocents. So what else is new? Hammering on emotions. "Moral obligation to do something". This looks bad. "Cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Oh no. Colin Goddard is being trotted out. What simpering tools are they.

The President. This should be good. I feel just a little sick.

The Tyrant has kids there for the classic propaganda picture. Invoking 'For the children." "Their voices should compel us to change".

"We can't put this off any longer." Talking about the Taft shooting. 900 killed with a gun in the last month. Wonder where those stats came from and how close they are to reality. "If there is even one thing we can  do...One life that can be saved...I am going to do my part". Going to sign executive orders. Mental Health/CDC. Violent video games. 23 executive orders. Calling on Congress to pass proposals.

Universal background checks. Including private sales. Calls it common sense. (That's not on the '23' list, just what he wants Congress to do)

Calling for Congressional bans on EBRs and more than 10 round magazines. "Pump out as many bullets as quickly as possible". Invoking Reagan again. Man, does the left love to do that. Ban EBR manufacture. Wants confirmation of Todd Jones as BATFE director. The "Hunters and Sportsman" dodge again.

He's actually being kinda vague about what he's specifically going to do here. Talking a lot about Congress. Kicking the ball to them so when very little of what he wants gets passed they get the blame I suppose. He's doing a lot of bloviating. It's a rah rah speech designed to reach the emotional and his base. He's setting up Congress and the NRA to take the heat. "The most important changes we can make depend on Congressional action".

Basically daring Congress to not do what he wants.

"With rights come responsibilities". Badly wants the Congress to do his dirty work. Hypocritically talking about religious freedom while imposing religious limitations through health care. What a tool.

More emotional appeals. "We must act now. Let's do the right thing".

Very empty speech. Little real action. Signing the executive orders with the kids as a background then hugs them. Stalin would be so proud of the President for that.

It was a campaign speech. Seems like he's going to do basically nothing but issue meaningless presidential orders and calls for others to do what he knows they won't do. I don't have the whole list of the "Executive Actions" but it seems to include greater enforcement of existing laws and calls for studies on causes of violence and pushes for Congress to "Do Something". Bret Baier seems surprised there wasn't more.

That speech was a big, fat nothing. It was an emotional appeal for Americans to pressure Congress into violating the Second Amendment. I'm guessing the Dems in the House and Senate told him a few realities about what happened after 1994 and that they're unwilling to take that ride under the bus. He's going to throw them there after he doesn't get what he wants anyway so I'm not really sure what anyone with a D after their names expects from him.

Fox went immediately to Debt Ceiling talk within minutes of the end of the speech so....I guess that's that. The left has got to be either disappointed or livid over what he didn't do. He didn't ban imports as far as I can tell. Someone correct me if I missed that. No new gun control laws by fiat.

I found a list of the 23 "Presidential Actions" here. Check out number 18.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

Heh heh. I guess reality jumped up and bit someone on the ass. Better late than never I suppose.

So that's it. No 'Earth shattering Kaboom'. I'm going to go surfing just to see the wailing and gnashing of leftist teeth over this because as far as I can tell That Guy has opted to punt and play defense. Nothing we feared was included and he even gave lip service to the Constitution. That's only CYA to be sure but at least he gave a nod to the Bill of Rights. I'm more than a bit relieved though Borepatch so totally called this. I bow to the master.

Of course there's still the squishies in Congress but right now I'm feeling a lot more secure. Congress we can handle.

I'm sure others both smarter and more informed than I will have lots more on this but I wanted to watch the thing in real time and put out what initial information I could ( Update: Bob Owens weighs in). Bottom line? That Guy just squatted down and made grunting noises but instead of squeezing out a steaming pile he just produced an odorous cloud. The problem for the anti gun left is that the president gave elected democrats (and republicans for that matter) an opening to cave on this issue and they're going to be under a lot of pressure from their constituents to do precisely that.

Be grateful for small favors I suppose.


15 January 2013

My Garage Memories

Brigid is a wordsmith without peer as anyone who has ever read her knows. I read her blog every day. Her recent post on Garage Memories really struck a chord with me, especially since I'm currently elbow deep in a remodel. The way she talks about her father brought up my own memories of the man who was the most important influence in who I am and the man I became. That man was my Grandfather. My mother's father.

I never really had a father. My male biological DNA donator essentially abandoned his wife and three sons when I was young enough that I have no independent memory of him. When I grew into adulthood he denied me a second time when I reached out to him so his influence on me is primarily negative. My step father was a horribly abusive man who did the world a favor when he voluntarily left it. Another negative male role model. Fortunately I was blessed with a grandfather who was everything an impressionable young boy could want. Especially one who badly needed a positive male role model in his life.

My grandfather taught me what a man was and what he needed to know. He was masculine, smart and honest. He did whatever he needed to do to get the job done and see to his family even when that meant taking his daughter and her three lost boys into a house he was still in the act of building. Where baths consisted of a large galvanized steel tub and buckets of water heated over a wood burning stove. He never complained or allowed the inconveniences we surely imposed on him to color how he treated us or how he went about his business. He was a farmer, a son and grandson of farmers, who actually homesteaded in Wyoming before going on to a career as an electronics inspector with Hughes Aircraft in southern California. He could inspect packages going to the moon then go home and build a sand rail from scrap iron and an old VW engine while simultaneously putting in an addition to his house.

He could build or fix anything (and I mean anything) and did his best to pass along those skills to us boys. All I know of such I learned from him though at the time I scarcely appreciated the value of those lessons. I think such comes naturally to us as we age. As children we're more interested in playing and whatever the diversion du jour is. Nuggets of gold cast before swine. It's only as we get to the age where we're now both engaged in such activities and faced with sons and grandsons of our own to influence that we appreciate their value and lean on the knowledge gained through pain and the singular application of will.

Grandpa never preached he just taught. By every word and action. Even after retirement he got up every day and worked at something. Fixing, improving, modifying. I learned so much from that man including the value of hard work and the idea that real men never quit. Never give up. Never stop moving forward. There is no task beyond the strong arms of a good man. Grandpa was a scrounger, one who never one threw away anything he thought someone might be able to find a use for one day. A trait I learned well and that chagrins Lu sometimes. I learned at the feet of a master.

Grandpa was a Mormon, a true believer. He never drank and I never heard him swear but once and Brigid's post brought that memory crashing back on me like a tidal wave.

As his spiritual child what he loved I loved. One of those loves was all things mechanical, especially cars. Grandpa loved his cars and trucks, the more broke down the better. He seldom bought new, in fact I am aware of only only new vehicle purchase he ever made. When he was young the Model T was still a viable means of transportation and though he went to his grave loving the Dodge brand (he was a stubborn man) he had a string of Model Ts and other old cars that he and his brother drove, fixed and modified. Nothing made him happier than to be in his shop, tools in hand and the guts of something with an internal combustion engine displayed before him. Didn't matter what it was either. Car, truck, tractor no difference. If it was broken he could fix it with a smile on his face and a satisfaction radiating off him like steam from a kettle.

We boys went through a wide variety of vehicles, none of them new and most much closer to junk than reliable transportation. But what we could always depend on was the magical touch, limitless skill and encyclopedic knowledge of my Grandfather. One evening I was ensconced in the bowels of his shop, a cinderblock and concrete structure I helped him build from a bare lot. I was elbow deep in the engine compartment of my 1963 Chevrolet Impala SS.

An aside. Man, how I wish I still had that car. It was a wreck when I bought and fixed it up but ended it's life at the end of a tow truck hook after I abandoned it in Sarge and MIL's apartment parking lot when Lu and I started down the military road. We all make mistakes and errors of judgement and that is hardly the worst of mine yet it stings still. But that is another story for another day.

On this evening I was contemplating the vagaries of a recently purchased, though very used, aluminum high rise intake manifold. 17 years old and more concerned with what I drove than just about anything else except maybe girls but bitchin' cars make that easier so win win. Go fast parts makes the car go cooler don't you know. Anyway. The installation was straightforward enough but there was a problem. One I wasn't sure how to resolve. See, that intake depended on valve covers that had openings both to put in oil and vent the crankcase. The problem was my covers had no such feature and neither did the intake. No way to put oil into an engine that used about a quart a week and no way to bleed off dangerous crankcase pressures that would eventually start pushing things like gaskets out from places where I really wanted them to stay. I could have purchased another set but for two things. First I had precisely no money (the intake was obtained through trade) and absolutely no patience to wait until I could procure a set of suitable covers. I mean, I was 17 years old. Enter my Grandfather.

He came down after dinner and inquired as to my predicament. I explained the problem and he said. "No problem." That was his usual and expected response to tricky issues. He took the intake and after studying it and the engine block pronounced that the way to fix the issue was to drill a large hole in the intake where we could install an oil filler tube with a filter cap that he had 'laying around'. He set up the drill press and made some marks. Then he did something he'd never done in my presence before. As he positioned the intake on the press and the machine began to whir he turned to me and with a positively wicked grin on his face he said

"Well, you ready to fuck it up?"

My Mormon, straight as an arrow Grandfather. I was shocked he even knew that word. I was flabbergasted. My mouth must have hit my knees because he started laughing and proceeded to drill that intake as straight and true as if it had been done at the factory. All with me simply staring at him and not helping a bit. My mind awhirl, wondering just who this man was, standing there in my Grandfather's skin. He was about 80 at the time. We finished the installation together and never spoke of it again. But I remembered.

As I grew up I understood that it was another lesson though you'd be hard pressed to have ever gotten him to admit as much. But that memory and the truths I brought away from it has followed me all the days of my adult life.
Words are just words.
It's not so much what a man says as what he does that's important.
A laugh before action can be a wonderfully calming thing.
Every once in a while a man just has to cuss and that's Ok.

I have since been fortunate to have been influenced by another honorable and much loved male father figure in my father in law, Sarge.  Between those two men they have managed to wash away the stain the first two left on my soul. They have convinced me that the good men outweigh the evil, by influence if not sheer numbers. A hard target is so much more satisfying to aim for.

My Grandfather. Gone now these many years but his lessons never forgotten. Thanks Grandpa. I never said that often enough.


14 January 2013

Kids Room Part II

First a note on doing remodels, especially on older homes like this one. Take breathing precautions and clean up as you go. There's an awful lot of crap in those walls and attics and most of it is going to end up as particulate matter in the air and your eyes, mouth and lungs. I've taken out fiberglass insulation, blown in cellulose insulation, bug carcasses, mouse turds, ancient dirt accumulation and even a dead bird. Breath masks and a hepa filter on your shop vac will go a long way toward keeping your lungs happy. Also take care to insulate the room you're working on from the rest of the house. That's especially important if you've got young ones at home.

Ok. First up was taking out the carpet, removing the wood burning stove and excising all those bricks. I took care to take them out as intact as possible. I have plans for those bricks down the line. The carpet is old but still serviceable. The best chunk is going into the gym. I tossed the rest.

I ended up with a nice pile of clay fireplace bricks. A little clean up and they'll be perfect for a brick BBQ I'm building this Summer.

Ok, bricks out it was time for the ceiling. It was composed of pressed cellulose tiles. It came down easily but I had quite a pile when I was done. I wanted to rent a small dumpster but the smallest I could find was 10 yards for 375 bucks. Yeah, I'll just load up the trailer and haul it myself.

When the tiles were down I was left with the support lath and the underlayment consisting of an insulating board over eighth inch thin plywood.

Under that was the insulation. It was a combination of fiberglass batting with blown in cellulose on top of that.

Oh, and one dead bird. Seriously. In my attic.

It made a hell of a mess. By this time I'd cleaned up bricks, mortar dust, wood, paneling and now insulation.  It took 5 large garbage bags just to pack out the cellulose insulation. Remember, clean as you go lest you get buried in demo.

As I was cleaning up it dawned on me that the whole thing would go faster if I just took out the slider door that I needed to remove anyway so out it came. Plus I really needed to see more of the framing to see if that wall is load bearing. It isn't which is both good and bad. Good because it means I can enlarge the room without worrying about shoring up the roof structure first. Bad because it really should be shoring up the roof structure now. It will be when I'm done.

Remember, in any remodel and certainly in one done on an older house you are going to run into...issues. Case in point. First, the ceiling joists are butted and toe nailed into the header. Maybe Ok 50 years ago but a no no these days. Plus there's no support from the joists to the roof structure as there would be in modern rafters. Add in that they're 24 inches on center and the whole thing is pretty much a mess. I'll end up replacing all the joists with 2x6 dimensional lumber put in with joist hangers at 16 inches on center. Then I'll run supports from them up to the roof. It'll add strength to the whole roof and tie everything together for a more sound structure. It's a pain but beats tearing the whole thing down and starting from scratch. Barely. 

You'll also find stuff that just makes you scratch your head and mutter WTF!? Like this. Don't ask. I have absolutely no idea and I'm not even sure I want to know. I'll just repair it and move on.

I ended the day with another good clean up. Since the temperature has been down in the single digits at night I changed out the light cover over the kitchen door with an old quilt for better insulation. Nothing you can really do. Remodels are controlled chaos and some things just have to be lived with temporarily.

Next up on the list is to get the walls down to the bare studs. That means taking out all the sheetrock and more clean ups. Sigh. Still, it has to be done before I can start building. I need to see the wall structure so I can determine what can stay and what needs to be repaired. I already know there's some wood damage from a flood in 1981 that was never fixed. There's definitely some rot and termite damage. Cross your fingers on that one please. At the same time I'll remove the large south facing window and take a look at that structure. I'm expecting the worst.

Still, it's a very good start. Nothing can be finished until the job is begun and at least I have done that much. More later.